Friday 15 November 2019

Dunne's towering centrepiece was meant to rival 'top apartments in Manhattan'

Sean Dunne
Sean Dunne

Peter Flanagan

If you asked 100 Dubliners to pick the one building that summed up the Celtic Tiger more than any other, there is a good chance most of them would choose one that was never constructed.

One Berkeley Court, as it was known, was to be the 37-storey centrepiece of 'Knightsbridge in Ballsbridge'.

Back in the heady days of 2005, Sean Dunne beat off a number of competitors to buy Jurys Hotel for €260m.

Four of the bids for the hotel were within €2m of each other. Dunne's winning offer was only €300,000 more than Bernard McNamara's bid.

Later that year, when Mr Dunne secured the Berkeley Court Hotel from the Doyle family for €119m, it gave him control of this 6.8-acre site in the heart of D4.

This was a time when developers seemed to be throwing cash around the area like confetti, fighting for sites in what became known as the 'Battle of Ballsbridge'.

Property prices there rivalled New York or London.

The heart of Mr Dunne's plan was the 37-storey block along with a number of buildings of between 10 and 19 storeys.

Designed by the Danish architect Ulrik Raysse, the tower promised to rival the "top apartments in Manhattan".

The development provided for 600 or so apartments, offices, bars, a theatre, cinema and jazz club. There would be a slew of high-end shops as well. The proposal became mired in the planning process, however, and as the economy turned, the plans were shelved.

Ulster Bank, which financed the deal along with Rabobank, took over the property in 2009.

The planning permission in place now calls for a much more functional apartment development with a hotel and shops.

The site is unusually large, for the area, and unusually underdeveloped. Perhaps reflecting the two hotels' age, only about 15pc of the land on the site has been built on. Even if that was increased to 40pc, there would still be significant amounts of open space.

A lot of locals may not like it, but the old Berkeley Court and Jurys Hotels have been living on borrowed time for years.

With the site being formally put up for sale today, redevelopment has moved a step closer.

Irish Independent

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